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A small mammal’s map: identifying and improving the large-scale and cross-border habitat connectivity for the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius in a fragmented agricultural landscape

Biodiversity and Conservation

Abstract

Fragmentation and habitat loss pose major threats to global biodiversity. Especially forest dwelling species with small ranges and high habitat specialisation are affected by ongoing land use change. Building projects for infrastructural purposes, expanding settlements, and extensive agricultural areas are assumed to have a high impact on these species. The European Habitat's Directive aims to conserve and restore habitat networks to lower these impacts. We propose that the idea of securing habitat networks for protected species should be incorporated within large scale landscape planning e.g. by modelling and improving corridors for umbrella species. Within a Danish-German project we developed a model demonstrating potential connecting corridors for Muscardinus avellanarius, a specialised forest dwelling rodent species with low dispersal ability. We used presence data and eco-geographical variables to find a data based time-efficient procedure which may be applied also in other species for future landscape planning. The habitat suitability model shows that the hazel dormouse occupies a narrow niche with highly suitable habitats comprising edge habitats. It indicates the preference of forest patches, linear structures and networks of the mentioned habitats. Along with connectivity the diversity of suitable habitats diversity is the major factor predicting hazel dormouse presence. For conservation management, we calculated habitat corridors and highlight sections with missing connections. This allowed us to accentuate regions of high management interest. The results represent the foundation not only for this cross-border conservation project, but also for long-term dormouse conservation on a federal-state level.

Author(s): Dietz, M; Buchner, S; Hillen, J; Schulz, B

Journal: Biodiversity and Conservation

Year: 2018

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